20 Jun 2011

NZ poor children excel in OECD test

10:19 pm on 20 June 2011

New Zealand children from disadvantaged families are more likely to do well in reading, maths and science than disadvantaged children in almost any other English-speaking nation, according to the OECD.

The report says 36.7% of New Zealanders from disadvantaged backgrounds managed to achieve at high levels in an international test of 15-year-olds.

In the English-speaking world, only Canada did better than New Zealand, with 39.2% of its disadvantaged 15-year-olds achieving well in the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) tests.

Australia managed 30.7% and Britain 23.8%.

Among all nations belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, New Zealand's result puts it eighth.

The OECD report says good results are associated with regular attendance at school and children having confidence in their ability to do well.

The figures come from new analysis of the 2009 PISA tests.

Principals' views

The Secondary Principals Association says the figures confirm people from all backgrounds can achieve well in New Zealand schools.

President Patrick Walsh says the report associates confidence and regular attendance with high achievement.

Mr Walsh says New Zealand teachers can be proud of the results.

The principal of Auckland's decile one Otahuhu College says schools need more resources if the performance of children from disadvantaged backgrounds is to improve further.

Gil Laurenson says it would be great to improve on the 2009 figure.

He and other educators say good teaching and the NCEA contributed to the good result.

Some Asian nations did much better than New Zealand, but educators say their schools are so different it would be difficult to copy them.

Assessment expert, Associate Professor Alison Gilmore from the University of Otago, told Checkpoint New Zealand should feel very encouraged by the findings.

She says New Zealand for many years has focused on the long tail of under-achievers.